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Documentary on inmate dog training program to screen Wednesday –

It took more than 20 years for a national initiative establishing dog training programs at state prisons to partner with a female correctional center. Now, a documentary takes viewers inside prison walls to see how it started.

An offender comforts her dog during a Nov. 7 groundbreaking ceremony for a new dog kennel at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud. Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman Archives

“Bassett Tales,” a film by Greg Mellott, head of the film program at Oklahoma City Community College, chronicles the inception of the program at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud.

The first public screening will be 7 p.m. Wednesday at the OCCC, 7777 S May Ave.

“These abandoned dogs really need somebody to care about them,” the program’s founder, Sister Pauline Quinn, says in the film. “And, what’s interesting is that the inmates, they really need someone to care about them. And so, it’s a mutual love there because they’re caring about one another.”

The film shows that participants have hope the program will allow them to give back to society and give them something at the same time.

“It’s just being able to love, to care, to care for something that’s been hurt like you have,” said Nancy Tinnin as she sat on her prison bunk. “You know, to rebuild. To give and get that love back, unconditionally.”

Tinnin is serving a lengthy sentence for forgery and embezzlement.

Cameras roll as the inmates meet the dogs they will train for the first time. Moments later, the women laugh to the point of tears as they roll in the grass with the animals, the energetic dogs licking at their faces.

The journey is narrated by University of Oklahoma veterinarian John Otto, a longtime advocate for the program and the opportunity it provides offenders to find a sense of self-worth. Otto said he hopes that feeling will help them put an end to the cycles that lead to prison.

“Anything that we can do to help the offenders and make them realize that they are still worth the time that we invest in them,” said Kevin Daniels, pastor of Harrah Church and a volunteer in the program.


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